Soccer: Welcome back, Kindel - Vancouver Sun


Former Whitecap Steve Kindel returns to Swangard as a Rhino for what may be his swansong

IAN WALKER

Steve Kindel knows Vancouver Whitecaps fans. Second on the club’s all-time games and minutes-played list, you could say he knows them too well.

It’s for that reason the Burnaby native doesn’t know what kind of reception he’ll get this evening when he walks out onto the pitch at Swangard Stadium as a member of the Rochester Rhinos.

“I think my relationship with the fans was pretty good — I worked hard during my time here and gave it my all so I hope the response will be pretty positive,” said Kindel, who will face his former team for the first time at home since being released by the defending United Soccer Leagues First Division champs in the off-season. “At the same time, the Whitecaps are in a tight playoff battle. They need all the points they can get and it’s the fans’ job to be the 12th man and do everything they can to get the opponent off their game. So there’s bound to be an element of that also.”

Kindel said the first person he’ll be looking for after walking through the tunnel will be his young son, Ben. Then his wife, Sara, followed by his parents and grandparents. He’ll also be scanning the crowd for friends as well as familiar faces from the Dunbar Soccer Association and the Kerrisdale Soccer Club, where he serves as technical director.

“It’s been almost a year since the USL-1 final, so just to be able to have my family and friends see me play live again is really exciting,” said Kindel, 32, who helped the Whitecaps to a pair of league titles during his time with the club. “There was a time earlier this year when I thought I may never have that opportunity again, so it really means a lot to me.”

Kindel was one of three longtime Whitecaps let go by the club this past December, with Jeff Clarke and Alfredo Valente the others. The team cited “philosophical differences” while the players contend their problems were exclusively with head coach Teitur Thordarson.

Kindel opted to take the high road when asked about the way things have unfolded for the Whitecaps this season. Vancouver has been a sub-.500 club most of the year and has had to deal with the fallout from a well-publicized fight between teammates and the release of one of those players for behavioural issues.

“I’m a member of the Rhinos now, so I don’t think it’s fair to comment on another team,” he said. “But whether or not the things we brought forward are coming to fruition is a great question for them.”

Kindel has few reservations that this may be his last professional match on a field where he’s spent most of his career.

“Just to be able to come back and play a final game on my terms makes it interesting on a lot of levels,” said Kindel. “To think, 10 months ago I was lifting a trophy. But things happen . . . Then for a while it looked like I’d never get the chance to play again. Coming home for one last game at the tail end of my career is a pretty unique situation.”

One the fans won’t let him forget.

• Fans are being encouraged to help B.C. families in need by bringing their gently worn boots and soccer equipment as donations before today’s game. Those taking part in the drive will receive a 25 per cent discount coupon to be used against their next Umbro boot purchase.

iwalker@vancouversun.com

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